Posted: 05/31/2023

10 Reasons to Visit Downtown Lancaster, PA

Downtown Lancaster is rich with history, shops, fine dining, and more.

When you think of Lancaster County, you may picture lush, green farmland with horse and buggies trotting by, fresh produce, and a relaxing pace of life.

While those things can be found here, there’s so much more to Lancaster.

In the middle of the farmland sits Lancaster City, which some would describe as hip, cool, and up-and-coming. But don’t just take our word for it – Forbes named Lancaster as one of the “10 Coolest U.S. Cities to Visit in 2018.”

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1. Arts & Theatre

Lancaster City is full of passionate makers and musicians, just waiting to share their craft. For fine arts, head to Gallery Row where artisans are displaying and selling their works. If you happen to be in town on the First Friday of the month, galleries and shops are open extra late for art lovers to browse and experience Lancaster’s art scene.

Demuth Museum is proud to showcase the work of master watercolorist and Lancaster native, Charles Demuth.

Want to catch a show or some awesome live music? Theaters and performance venues, both big and small, can be found throughout the city, putting on live music, Broadway-caliber musicals, play, and classical performances.

Find Upcoming Shows

2. Awesome Activities

Whether you’re traveling with the family or as a couple, Downtown Lancaster is filled with spots to fill your day with fun. Take a group of friends or your significant other and challenge yourself to an Escape Room. If you're not in the mood to find your way out, try your hand at winning some arcade games at Decades.

Learn history and drink some tasty brews along the way with LoKal Experiences, Lancaster History and Craft Beer Walk! They also offer a Lancaster City VIP Restaurant Tour! If brews don't excite you, and you're more of a foodie then check out Unique Lancaster Experiences! They offer an International Food Tour, Scavenger Hunt Adventure, Electric Bike Tours and so much more!

For the family, head over to our baseball field where the Lancaster’s minor league baseball team, the Lancaster Stormers, play!

Spend the day at the North Museum of Nature & Science or Lancaster Science Factory. Both are great museums geared towards hands-on learning for kids. If your family prefers arts and crafts, Pottery Works and Beadworks & Gem Dem offer a creative outlet with pottery painting and jewelry making.

3. For The Foodies

Downtown Lancaster has everything from upscale to everyday dining; and any style that will suit your culinary tastes. Shot n Bottle is a great way to kick off a your day with a tasty brunch, but we can agree that crafted cocktails in the morning isn't for everyone. That's where Cafe One Eight is perfect, they serve great food and great coffee.

Speaking of coffee Lancaster County is full of cafe's and coffee roasters and the city makes no exception. Passenger Coffee was named the Best Coffee in Pennsylvania by Food & Wine in 2022!

Check out our coffee trail!

Elevate your night, literary, by reserving a table at The Exchange, a rooftop bar that over looks the city. If you prefer to be more grounded, Annie Bailey's is perfect, they serve Irish style fare in an authentically Irish pub.

With a group and can't decided where and what to eat? Try going to Southern Market! They host various local chefs in their chef stations, in a hip and modern food hall. They also station a elegant bar in the middle making it a perfect spot to grab drinks!

Or try out a group walking tour with, Red Rose Walking Food Tour, you'll be able to explore the historic parts of the city while tasting food along the way. This 2 hours long takes you Downtown on market days where you can taste a wide variety of foods.

Looking for something sweet? Check out Vintage Candy Shop who is serving up old-time candies like Abba-Zaba bars, Necco wafers, Zagnut bars and candy necklaces.

Check out more fine dining and unique international spots, there is no shortage of amazing restaurants in downtown Lancaster.

On those sunny days, many spots offer outdoor dining options where diners can enjoy delicious bites and the beautiful weather.

4. Filled With History

As one of the oldest inland cities in America and serving as the U.S. Capital for a day, Lancaster is filled with stories of events and people from the past. Dive into these stories as you view Lancaster’s architecture, featuring buildings with various styles – from Georgian and Federal to Modern.

History is just waiting to be shared at historic locations throughout the city with a walking tour or a visit to President James Buchanan’s home and Lancaster’s historic society museum. Stop by Lancaster Medical Heritage Museum to see Lancaster County’s rich medical history.

5. Lancaster Central Market

Featuring history, community vibes, fresh produce, and popular local goodies, Lancaster Central Market, America’s oldest continuously operating farmers market, is a Downtown “must-visit.” Be sure to visit on a Tuesday, Friday or Saturday when market is open to wander the aisles for locally sourced fruits and vegetables, baked goods, freshly cut flowers, and something tasty for breakfast or lunch.

Some stands have been passed down generation-to-generation, while others are bringing new, unique offerings to the historic market. While you’re there, don’t forget to look up – the market building dates back to 1889 and features stunning architectural details.

6. Events

In addition to daily happenings, Lancaster’s special events add an extra element of excitement to the city. From the monthly First and Third Friday events featuring art and live music, to Roots & Blues in February, consider planning your trip around these festive occasions.

Find events happening this week!

7. Ales, Spirits & Even Mead

With a ton of Lancaster's breweries being Downtown it makes it hard to choose just one to go to. Lancaster Brewing Company, known for their Milk Stout, Strawberry Wheat and Hop Hog IPA. Spring House Brewing Company is another great spot to check out, they specialize in flavorful concoctions like the Big Gruesome Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout. Our Town Brewery which newly opened up in 2020, specializes stouts, sours and even canned cocktails.

Columbia Kettle Works has their 2nd Gear Taproom which is conveniently right next to Zoetropolis where you can have a bite to eat and see a vintage film!

If spirits and cocktails are more your style, Downtown Lancaster has plenty of those too. From Thistle Finch Distillery who is distilling their own rye whiskey, vodka and gin, to a number of restaurants and roof top bars, like Altana, who creates artisan cocktails with locally sourced ingredients and house made infusions.

May we interest you in a little mead? This traditional alcoholic beverage is being brewed by Meduseld Meadery here in Lancaster, using honey, water, and yeast. While you’re there, try your hand at axe throwing in their indoor throwing range.

Join the Lancaster County Craft & Cork Trail

8. Walkability

What fun is driving when you’re on vacation? In Lancaster City, walkability is key with many of the popular stops within walking distance of each other. Whether you’re wandering down Gallery Row or shopping on the 300 Block of Queen Street, good eats and even more to see and do are just a few blocks away. Parking options are plentiful with reasonably priced lots and garages located in the popular areas of the city.

9. Boutique Shopping

How about a little shopping? Lancaster City is home to cute boutiques and shops, whether you’re searching for a special gift or something to remember your trip by.

The 300 Block of North Queen Street is a shopping hot spot Downtown, with shops featuring unique gifts, antiques, clothes and jewelry, home décor, and specialty items. Check out BUiLDiNG CHARACTER, Mapcap & Co., Drøm, Foxduck, Ville n Rue and so many more!

Shop local as you’ll find wares made here in Lancaster County by passionate makers.

10. Great Lodging Options

After all this exploring, you’ll need a place to rest up for another day of fun. Downtown Lancaster has great lodging options for this very thing. Boutique hotels like Lancaster Arts Hotel and Cork Factory Hotel provide a restful night’s sleep in uniquely decorated and beautifully renovated rooms.

If you prefer to stay in a bed & breakfast, the Lancaster Bed & Breakfast are located just a short drive from the main Downtown area, and provide cozy accommodations for your stay.

We also have traditional lodging locations like The Holiday Inn Lancaster or the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square.

And that’s just the beginning!

Discover even more about Downtown Lancaster and the county that surrounds it!

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